We have just finished a moderate upgrade to the kitchen. A new dishwasher, oven and fridge are happily living in that space now. The previous appliances were not entirely "used up," but it was certainly time for a refresh. We also replaced the kitchen sink and faucet. That alone is one of my favorite parts. The old sink was unreasonably shallow and you nearly took an unwanted bath every time you washed a large pan.

The kitchen is one of the more important rooms of your home. Today we're going to review some of the biggest offenders in this room and help you make your kitchen more awesome, or at the very least, more attractive to discerning buyers. If nothing else, the kitchen is where your friends and family will spend all of their time during any social event you host. We all tidy up when company is coming over, but what if the "tidying up" isn't enough?

The first two items are glaringly obvious and simply need to go. Those are lights and linoleum. Growing up in the '80s, the overhead fluorescent light in the kitchen was a staple in our neighborhoods. I'm confident it was a cost-effective way to get light into the room and, for builders on a budget, it was quick and easy. The issue is it gives off harsh light that most of us associate with office buildings and shopping malls.

Replacing those lights is not going to be all that expensive either. You can get some budget-friendly pendant lights or even a small chandelier. More importantly, you can put either of those new light fixtures on a dimmer and gain control over the mood and "temperature" of the room. Nothing kills a romantic dinner faster than blaring lights and that incessant, fluorescent humming. 

My one caution is the typical "gotcha" when doing any sort of remodeling. When you remove, remodel, or replace one item, something else typically creeps into the project. I'm guessing that if you still have these sort of lights, there's a good chance you have popcorn-textured ceilings as well. Since you're going to be leaving a 4-foot by 2-foot gap in your ceiling, you're going to either have to patch that or scrape the whole thing and re-paint it. I still believe replacing your lights is worth it, even with this in mind. Just prepare for that part of the project before you rip the lights down.

Chances are good that if you're still rockin' the overhead fluorescents, you also have some tired linoleum underfoot. While it may sound like I'm making big assumptions here, it's good for you to know I'm also describing my former home. It would be ideal to rip up that flooring and throw down some beautiful hardwood. But that's not always in the cards. If your budget can't swing that right now, consider a large, colorful rug. You can literally "sweep" that bad flooring under the carpet.

It is easy to look back in time and ask "What were they thinking?" I'll never understand the olive green or orange colors that were so popular in kitchens in the '60s and '70s. That is one of the easiest ways you can upgrade your kitchen without spending a fortune. If your cabinets are painted, get to work. Most appliances have replaceable panels in front so you can swap those out for a more mild white or gray. Although painting is a bit of an undertaking, the results will be amazing and the cost is mostly that of paint and sweat.

Since we're on the topic of unnatural looking items, it is also time to ditch the plastic plants. You are not fooling anyone into believing you crawl on top of your fridge every week to water that thing. Ditch the fake ones for some real greenery. You could even go a step further and get some potted herbs to spread around the kitchen. They look better and create a more "homey" feeling.

One of the easiest things you can do to spruce up your kitchen is to simply clean it — it's free. And I'm not talking about the bagel crumbs from this morning. Chances are, if you look around your countertops you will find a handful of "things" that simply don't need to be there.

"Removing clutter is one of the best ways to increase the look and feel of a kitchen," notes Badger Realty agent Peter Pietz. "It cleans up the look, makes the space feel larger and gives the homeowner the ability to actually use the counter space they have."

Lastly, it's time to ditch anything plastic in the kitchen and upgrade to metal. Just picture a stainless steel trash can in place of a tired, stained, dented plastic one. There is no shortage of plastic items to fill your kitchen, just stop by your favorite big box store this afternoon. But if you want to liven up the space and give it a more adult look, spring for the metal and you'll be happy you did.

The kitchen is obviously a very important room of the house. We are all in there at least four or five times each day. Whether you are looking to sell or simply want to have a bit more pride in the kitchen you have, some of these tips will surely get you headed in the right direction.

Happy remodeling!

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